By Jose Serrano ( | First Posted: Sep 02, 2015 09:08 AM EDT

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo : Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Only the most sure-handed doctors can call themselves neurosurgeons, capable of finessing a scalpel with the ease of a painter stroking a barn door. They are realistic about the risks, which, with an unintended flick of a wrist, can end a patient's life.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson spent over 30 years learning that lesson, becoming the youngest major division director in John Hopkins Hospital history before successfully separating twins conjoined at the head in 1987. He earned countless medical accolades and dozens of honorary doctorate degrees, none of which serve in his current passion of running for President Obama's seat.

The Republican presidential candidate doesn't need vociferous rhetoric, a la Donald Trump, or deep-seeded political ties, see Jeb Bush, to resonate with conservatives. Carson's doing just fine being the low-keyed outsider.

Despite speaking less than any other candidate during last month's Republican presidential debate - a noticeable omission that made Carson quip "Well, thank you. I wasn't sure if I would get to speak again" - Carson rose to place among the top-three candidates in various post-debate polls. Potential voters, "mad as hell" with politicians, gave Carson a 79 percent favorability rating in a recent Bloomberg Politics/ Des Moines Register Iowa Poll.

A new Monmouth University survey had Carson tied with Trump for first place while more accomplished political figures fell behind by double-digits. This, from the soft-spoken conservative whose campaign nearly went off the rails after controversial statements on immigration and same-sex marriage. Some came from the inexperience of consistently being in the public eye, others from deep-held beliefs undecided voters can relate with.

Here's a look at hot topic issues that will define Carson's run at the Oval office.


Carson hasn't ruled out implementing a guest worker program.

"They have to register. They have to pay a back tax penalty. And they have to pay taxes going forward, but they don't have to live in the shadows at that point," Carson told PBS NewsHour's Gen Ifill last month. "And also we don't collapse the farming industry, we don't collapse the hotel industry and a bunch of other industries. It doesn't give them citizenship. It doesn't give them voting rights."

As points out, Carson has previously suggested keeping the door open for immigration reform. In his 2011 book "America the Beautiful," he opines the United States should model a guest-worker program after Canada's.

Carson's moderate view on immigration, and his accomplished career as a physician, gives some weight to his belief that undocumented immigrants are in some part responsible for measles outbreaks across the country.

"It's not to prejudice anybody, but we have to deal with reality, and if you have people coming into your country who have not been properly screened, who have not had the same kind of care as people in this country, I don't think you have to be a genius to figure out that that could introduce some communicable problems," Carson said in speaking with CNN's Chris Cuomo.

On a recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Carson called for the use of drones to attack smugglers' caves, though he vehemently denied they would target undocumented immigrants.

"Drones can help with surveillance," Carson told CNN. "In no way did I suggest that drones be used to kill people."

Same-sex marriage

Though he disagrees with the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage, last June Carson conceded that it is "the law of the land."

He's been coy in talking about the issue because of negative press he's received in the past. Carson got considerable pushback last March for calling homosexuality a choice, referencing prisons as proof.

"A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight - and when they come out, they're gay," Carson said. "So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question." He then cited his scientific training as evidence.

Carson immediately backtracked, but not before reconfirming his own religious beliefs.

"Religious Marriage is an oath before God and congregation," he said in the statement. "Religious marriage must only be governed by the church. Judges and government must not be allowed to restrict religious belief."

Women's rights

Carson is a staunch opponent of Planned Parenthood and openly accused them of opening clinics in black neighborhoods as a population control measure. In the past, he accused organization founder Margaret Sanger of being racist.

A 2014 study by the Guttmacher Institute debunked the first myth, finding 60 percent of abortion clinics rest where a majority of residents are white.

Carson hasn't publicly said it, but it appears he doesn't believe there should be exceptions to allowing abortions, regardless of health, rape, or incest. If a woman is rape, he said he hoped she would go to an emergency room for an abortion pill.

"I would hope that they would very quickly avail themselves of emergency room," Carson told Fox News' Neil Cavuto, referring to rape victims. "And in the emergency room, they have the ability to administer, you know, RU-486, other possibilities, before you have a developing fetus."

He, like most GOP candidates, is pro-life and believes life starts with the fetus's first heartbeat.

When riots broke out in Ferguson following unarmed black teenager Michael Brown's death, Carson blamed looting and anti-police violence on what he called the "women's lib movement."

"I think a lot of it really got started in the '60s with the 'Me' generation. 'What's in it for me?'" Carson said. "I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women's lib movement. You know, 'I've been taking care of my family, I've been doing that, what about me?' You know, it really should be about us."

Gun right

Carson is on the extreme right in adhering to the U.S. Constitutions' Second Amendment. He doesn't just believe in the right to bear arms, Carson thinks law-abiding citizens shouldn't have to register.

The gun rights advocate, in March 2014, said Americans should prepare for martial law. He feared the United States would turn into a third-world country diminished by crippling debt and direct threats from Russia's Vladimir Putin.

"I truly believe in Second Amendment rights, I would never advocate anything to interfere with Second Amendment rights; however, I do think we have to be intelligent," Carson said.

He added, "We need to engage in a discussion about, 'Is there something we can do?'" Carson said before saying that "we have to keep in mind that law-abiding American citizens absolutely should have gun rights."

A year earlier, Carson said owning a semi-automatic weapon depended on whether the purchaser lived in a rural or populated area. He pointed to the Amendment's intent of protecting against government, but backpedaled when confronted with the obvious bias.  

"What I was trying to get across is that the place where dangerous weapons are most likely to fall into the hands of crazies are crowded places. They are not likely to happen in some remote place. But in no way do I think we should restrict the rights, particularly the rights of law abiding citizens to have guns," Carson told Glenn Beck in a 2013 interview.

Carson doesn't believe gun control is the answer to mass shooting, including the June 19 massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina church. He said this was less about race and guns that whatever mental issues shooter Dylann Roof suffered.

"The heart of the matter is not guns," Carson told Fox News' Megyn Kelly. "The heart of the matter is heart, the heart and soul of people."

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